The Catacombs of San Gennaro are arranged on two levels that are not superimposed, and both characterised by much larger spaces than the more famous Roman catacombs. This is due to the work-ability and strength of the tuff.
The original nucleus of the Catacombs of San Gennaro dates back to the 2nd century AD. It was probably the tomb of a noble family, who then provided spaces for the Christian community.
The expansion began in the 4th century AD following the deposition of the remains of St. Agrippinus, the first patron of Naples, to the underground basilica dedicated to him. It consists of a single nave dug out of the tuff, which still preserves a bishop's chair carved into the rock and the altar with an opening, in which the faithful could see and touch the saint's tomb. The lower catacomb, a dense grid carved into the tuff stone
The lower catacomb extends around the Basilica of Sant'Agrippino, following a reticulated structure. The vast spaces and the regularity of its shapes silently welcome visitors into a timeless place.
The imposing lower vestibule, with ceilings measuring up to 6 metres high, houses a large baptismal font commissioned by Bishop Paul II, who took refuge in the Catacombs of San Gennaro in the eighth century during iconoclastic struggles.
The upper catacomb originates from an ancient tomb, dating from the third century AD, which preserves some of the earliest Christian paintings in southern Italy. Its expansion began with the moving of San Gennaro's remains in the fifth century. The presence of the martyr turned the upper catacomb into a pilgrimage site and coveted place for burial.
Two examples of the expansion of the Catacomb are the Crypt of the Bishops, where the city's bishops are buried, and the majestic basilica adjecta, an underground basilica with three naves, built after the transfer of San Gennaro's remains.
The main entrance and ticket office of the Catacombs of Naples are next the Madre del Buon Consiglio Basilica, Via Capodimonte 13: the tour begins with the Catacombs of San Gennaro.
Visits of the catacombs last one hour, and there is a departure almost every hour: Monday to Saturday: 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm. Sunday: 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm. There is no need to pre-book your departure time, but please allow sufficient time to arrive for timely start of each visit.
Your visit to the Catacombs is best enjoyed with comfortable shoes and a sweater (even in warmer periods): the temperature in the site varies from between 15 and 22° C.